The First Hurdle

September 25, 2007

One grade down. Last night, I received an email with a grade on my first assignment – and on the first disucssion. As always, this professor has good comments to make – ones that make it apparent she has in fact read the paper that I wrote. I’m happy with the grade and am ready to really get working on the second assignment – which is due this Thursday and deals with vendors.

Meanwhile, I got absolutely no sleep last night and I am not really functioning very coherently today. ARGH!!

Cataloging = Training Wheels????

September 22, 2007

Yesterday, Dorothea Salo wrote a post Training-wheels culture over on her blog, Caveat Lector. Salo is tired of “. . . having to stand over a grown professional’s shoulder teaching her to use a set of essentially self-explanatory web forms because she cannot be bothered to learn by doing.” I believe that Salo’s training-wheels culture is a culture where people prefer to ask for help repeatedly rather than learn something for themselves. Now, I can’t argue that this culture exists. As a technophile, my life is filled with people who would prefer for me to show them something rather than take the time or make the effort to figure it out. This isn’t just a work thing either. It is actually much more prevalent in my personal life. Human beings are an interesting lot – and there are many, many of us who don’t feel the need to learn how to do something because we have someone close to us who knows how.

Now, I see some issues with Salo’s attitude. I will admit that I have spent a great deal of time being frustrated by technology users and their inability to grasp simple concepts. Part of what I have learned from this entire “The User is Not Broken” thing is that we need to afford the same courtesy to library employees that we afford to our patrons. Technology permeates almost everything that we do in libraries. It is essential that people who work in libraries understand a great deal about technology, understand that things will continue to change rapidly – and they need to have a basic confidence in their own knowledge of technology. This isn’t the case for so many people, and to me, it means that we are not giving people the skills they need to be successful in the library environment. Do people need to step up and take responsibility for their own skill set? No doubt about it. But, we have to work together because there is a real divide in the technological skill set. Why do people continually ask for help with something that the technology experts believe they should be able to figure out themselves? Why? We need to be looking at this rather than just getting frustrated.

Now beyond that, Dorothea Salo includes a rant about the value of cataloging. Salo read through the responses to Nicole Engard’s survey about LIS requirements and was seemingly astonished by the number of people who wrote that they believe they need additional training in cataloging. Whether you believe that MARC is dead, or should should be dead, it currently is THE foundation of our library systems. Should it be? I’m not getting into that debate. I’m not necessarily a fan of MARC, but we are a long way from saying goodbye to it. We have to deal with it. If you are going to work in a library today, you need to understand it – as well as the reasons why people believe it to be inadequate. Additionally, people can’t truly understand its weaknesses unless they first understand it. I also believe that it will be those people who understand MARC and AACR2 best who will be able to move library cataloging forward. I wasn’t surprised by how many people mentioned a need for additional training or advanced classes in cataloging. I thought it was a good thing.

Dorothea Salo’s frustration with the training-wheels culture is more than evident in this post. I’m with Salo in that we need to find a way to get people to be able to do more with technology on their own. However, I don’t think that screencasts and/or tutorials and the like are going to get us there. Nor do I think that convincing LIS students that they don’t need more training in cataloging is going to help either.

I Hear You!

September 22, 2007

Michelle, from Yarns from M., writes:

Do you know what I think grad school does to you? I think it forces you to live, eat, breathe and sleep your chosen future profession, so that it becomes the overwhelming theme in your life and then you graduate, it falls away and you are left to wonder…well, what else should I be doing, since I’m not working in my chosen field yet?

I can second the sentiment about graduate school becoming the overwhelming theme in one’s life. I’m fortunate, very fortunate, to already have a job. I sympathize wholeheartedly with Michelle’s sentiment here, however. One eats, sleeps and breathes libraries, graduates from library school and is then at a loss because of trouble finding a job. It must be so easy to lose all of one’s excitement about working in a library. On the other hand, when one does have a full-time library job and attends library school, it almost seems as if there is never any break from libraries. I actually have to set specific boundaries and try to make sure that I have “library-free” days – days where I do not go to work, days where I do no do any homework, days where I don’t read anything library-related. I can tell you, I don’t get enough of these type of days. Fortunately, things are a bit better this semester. Taking only one class makes a big difference. However, there are many, many big projects going on at work that are making it difficult for me to let go when I leave the office. Graduate school can be a tough experience. Working in a library can be a tough experience. Doing both can be excruciating at times. I am eagerly awaiting the end of my tenure in library school, I can tell you that.

Tags and Categories

September 22, 2007

Categorizing blog posts can be tricky, especially in the long term. Obviously, the longer that one blogs, the greater potential for the number of categories to grow to unmanageable proportions. Just recently, I made myself sit down and weed my category list down significantly. So, I was thrilled with WordPress’ announcement yesterday that they had added tags in addition to categories. This will make it much easier to resist the temptation to add extraneous categories – and as such, keep category lists meaningful.

Assignment Number 1

September 20, 2007

I just passed in my effort at the first assignment of the semester. The assignment was to twofold: to find a collection development policy on the web from the type of library one is specializing in and then to evaluate it according to the criteria set forth in our textbook; and to evaluate an actual policy given to us based upon collection development purposes in same textbook. How do I feel about it? Ok, I guess. I’ve taken this professor before, and I like her. I like her assignments. More importantly, I like her classes. Her assignments always tend towards the practical – and I think that is a good thing. First assignments are always nerve-wracking, and I really shouldn’t expect this one to be any different.

In terms of collection development policies, I’ve actually written one – specifically for a government documents collections (SUDOCS rule!). Was it a good one? I have no idea. However, it did get ok marks during an FDLP inspection. My problem? I did not actually want to take Collection Development. It isn’t a subject that I am interested in any way. I have no desire to take the subject lightly. It is obviously important. I’ve just developed significant interests in library systems and technology. That won’t change. So, I’m trying to make the best of this. I don’t want to suffer through this semester. I do want to learn something useful. Here’s hoping!

Ahoy There, Mateys & Scurvy Dogs

September 19, 2007

In honor of International Talk like a Pirate Day, I thought another web quiz was in order. I definitely couldn’t resist.

  My pirate name is:  

  Mad Dog Kidd

  Part crazy, part mangy, all rabid, you’re the pirate all the others fear might just snap soon. Even though you’re not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!  

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network  

Some people’s dedication to this day is absolutely amazing. This pirate dictionary is one of me favorite finds so far.

LIS Requirements

September 18, 2007

Several weeks ago, Nicole Engard put together a survey asking MLS students and graduates about the classes that they were required to take. Today, she posted the results. They are very interesting. I wasn’t surprised by the number of current students who took the survey. Engard also had good results from those graduating between 1973 and 1999. However, not many people who graduated between 2000 and 2003 responded. I was very impressed with the number of graduates from Syracuse University – of course, that may skew the results a bit. Anyway, I definitely need to look at the results in more detail. So far, I’m not too surprised about the LIS requirments. Reference, cataloging, management and collection development seem to be the courses most often required of students.

At first, I was a bit surprised by the fact that courses on ethics didn’t seem to be required overall. However, I’m wondering if this is something that seems to get covered in other courses – and if respondents had trouble figuring out into which category their required courses fit. I can’t remember how I responded. I would consider my Foundations of Librarianship class to be the one in which we discussed such topics. Yet, I don’t see a response for an ethics class under the results for Southern Connecticut State University. I guess this means that I put Foundations of Librarianship into the Intro category??? Ahh, human confusion and error – ain’t it grand?

My Biggest Tech Support Challenge

September 12, 2007

The start of a new academic year always brings new problems, challenges and questions. No matter how much one plans for change, there is always something that throws a wrench into the best laid plans. This year, programs like Windows Vista and Office 2007 are generating many calls for help. While I certainly expected many of these issues to appear, they are causing frustrations for both staff and students – and for me too since I’m struggling with the best way to offer support. This struggle highlights one of the aspects of providing technical support that I find most challenging – trying to find the right balance between giving someone the tools and training necessary to solve their own problem versus actually solving the problem for them.

When someone calls me with an issue, my first task is to listen, ask questions and make a preliminary assessment. At this point, I need to make a determination about the best way to resolve the issue and make a determination about whether or not this is the type of problem people need to be able to solve (or attempt to solve on their own). Some issues that play into this decision are the following: does the problem involve a student? is the problem related to standard procedures and/or practices (connecting to the network, printing, logging onto a computer)? does the problem require my intervention? There are, of course, other factors as well. This isn’t easy, and I’m constantly trying to make sure that I am offering the right level of support to everyone. I want people to feel empowered – and confident about their technical skills. But, I do not want people to think that I don’t want to help them – to think that I am being unapproachable and/or unhelpful. I’m pretty sure that I don’t always get it right, but I do try and I do try to learn from the mistakes that I do make.

One of the most important factors in trying to determine the right level of support is making the determination about whether or not this is the type of problem that might happen when I am not around to offer support. If this is the case, I believe it is important to give people some verbal help and then give them some space to try and resolve the issue. This is why when presented with any problems that involve student issues, I almost exclusively try and offer phone support. I don’t immediately offer to fix the problem. I specifically wait until a staff member either asks me to personally come and help or until I get a sense that the staff person is seriously at a loss.

One of the things that has become clear to me over the time that I have been engaged in technical support is that technical training for staff is a big problem. Honestly, I don’t feel as if it is one of my strengths. So often, there is so much work to do day to day to keep everything running smoothly that training takes a back seat. So staff may end up feeling as if they have the knowledge or the tools to solve the types of technical problems that patrons have. This, of course, means that I need to spend more time trying to troubleshoot basic problems. Right now, I’m on somewhat of a mission to try and make a serious effort to get people the tools they need. Hopefully, this will help me feel more comfortable when faced with the choice of helping staff solve problems themselves or solving it for them.

If anyone has any words of wisdom about how they deal with this issue, please feel free to share!

Mucked Up Theme

September 12, 2007

My WordPress theme (contempt) seems to be a bit mucked up today. There is white space (enormous chunks of white space in my opinion) on either side of my blog. I find it unappealing to look at – and distracting. I hope it returns to normal soon. Yuck!

Me, A Nerd?

September 11, 2007 says I'm a Cool High Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

This one is right up my alley. Found via Baby Boomer Librarian.